Rice Bran Oil - is it really "The Healthy Oil"?

by Roger

In 2007 I wrote this article and concluded by recommending rice bran oil. In 2010 we received a thoughtful message from a natural therapies student in Auckland. Even though rice bran oil appears in many recipes in our cookbook, we no longer recommend using it. I have adjusted my original article to reflect my change in stance.  You can read Lana's message by scrolling to the end of my article.  (Thanks Lana!)

And now in 2012 another postscript, please scroll down to find another positive perspective on Rice Bran oil... it seems that the jury is still out!

Many people ask me  – Is rice bran oil a good oil to cook with?

The answer I now give is No - even though RBO manufacturers heavily promote its benefits for health.  

Olive oil remains the best choice for regular use: dressings, dips, baking and moderate-temperature frying.  We recommend grapeseed oil, coconut oil and clarified butter for pan-frying and roasting.

What is rice bran oil?

It is the oil extracted from the germ and inner husk of whole brown rice.  Rice bran oil has a mild, nutty  flavour.  Promoters call it  “The Healthy Oil” or “The Good Oil”.   One label says rice bran oil is “nutritionally balanced, versatile and with a pleasantly subtle taste – perfect for BBQs, frying, baking and salad dressing”

Is this the all-in-one cooking oil solution?

No.  Bulk, low cost polyunsaturated oils such as rice bran oil, sunflower, safflower, canola and corn are dangerous to our health for various reasons - and should be completely avoided. High-quality cold-pressed versions of these oils may be OK in small quantities.  They should be used sparingly, because they contain way too much omega-6 linoleic acid.   

Problems with fats and oils 

In modern Western countries most people eat too much fat.  Fats and oils contain over twice the calories of similar weight of protein or carbohydrate.  A low-calorie diet is one of the keys to avoiding cancer and many other diseases. 

And there are also problems with the type of fats we consume.  We eat:
Too much saturated animal fat, toxic "trans" fats  and Omega-6 fatty acids.
Too little  Omega 3 and fat-soluble antioxidants such as vitamin E 

Omega-6 : Omega -3 fatty acid balance.

Rice bran oil contains high amounts of  omega-6 fatty acids (linoleic acid) – and virtually no omega-3 (linolenic acid).   Omega-3 and omega-6 compete for the same metabolic enzymes.  Dietary imbalance creates all sorts of problems to body processes, including a tendency towards inflammation.  This imbalance has been implicated in higher rates of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, stroke, arthritis and skin disorders.  

Our food has changed

Our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate a diet of fresh, whole plant and animal foods – including a lot of seafood.  This provided a balance of omega-3 to omega-6 of about 1:1.  This is what our bodies are designed for, the result of hundreds of thousands of years of evolution.  

Nowadays we eat way less seafood and large amounts of grains and seeds – most of it processed.  Since the 1960s when seed oils began to replace saturated fats our intake of omega-6 has more than doubled – and omega-3 consumption is about 1/10 of what it should be.  This has created a dangerous imbalance. 

The primary source of omega -6 fatty acids is vegetable oils.  The primary source of omega-3 is seafood – although flaxseed oil is a notable exception.  Dark leafy green plants, wild plants and free-range eggs provide useful amounts too.

Optimum intake of omega-3 : omega-6 is generally agreed to be higher than  1 : 4.  This is because most of us already consume and store an excess of omega-6. 

Modern diets, high in seed oils, processed foods and low in seafood oils provide a ratio of  about 1:14  or 1:20.  it may be as high as 1:60 for some people.  Excess omega-6 tends to be stored in body fat – while excess omega-3 is excreted.

The  omega-3 : omega-6  ratio in rice bran oil is about  1:35.  We are best to use it in moderation.  

However, perhaps the most dangerous aspect of bulk cooking oils is the way they are processed.

It would be wonderful to find a bulk cooking oil that solved all our problems, but ANY of the cheaper vegetable oils consumed in quantity are going to cause problems. Lana's letter outlines some of the issues.

Letter from Lana Raill, Senior Student, Diploma of Herbal Medicine. 


This message prompted me to change my mind about Rice Bran Oil.  Lana wrote this in 2010, before I changed my mind about rice bran oil. 

Hi Roger,
I would have to disagree with you about Rice Bran oil being good for cooking. The majority of rice bran oil available on the new zealand market is not cold pressed and has been chemically extracted. The label claims it is 'cold-filtered' and not cold pressed. Secondly, it is stored in clear plastic bottles that a) expose the oil to light which causes oxidation; b) oil leaches xenoestrogens from plastic. I am a final year student of nutrition and herbal medicine, and from the information i have gained both from tutors with extensive experience in the nutrition field and through my own research, rice bran oil would not be a suitable oil for cooking. I experimented with rice bran oil a few years ago, and found that it reached smoke point and became damaged very quickly. From my understanding, the few oils suitable for cooking would include those with a higher saturated fat content such as coconut oil, ghee and butter, and olive oil at lower temperatures. Sesame oil is prone to oxidation quickly too, so it is not suitable for cooking with.
I wanted to share this with you as I feel there is a lot of misleading information about rice bran oil, largely based on marketing strategies by companies with financial interests.
Yours sincerely
Lana Raill

And she writes further:

Hi Roger,
Thanks for your reply. I've been at Wellpark College of Natural Therapies in Auckland for the past 3 years. I've been fortunate to have had tutors such as Maria Middlestead, who is a well respected clinical nutritionist and has about 30 years experience so i trust her judgement.. I have done my own research via the internet and looked at the majority of websites that tout rice bran oil as being a healthy frying oil. I will send you a couple of links to some of the websites I have been using. I've also been checking out the research of Mary Enig, a leading biochemist who has done a lot of research into the nature of fats and oils for the Weston A. Price foundation. My feeling is that its become a lucrative business for selling waste materials from the rice industry. I don't understand how an oil that has gone through an extensive amount of processing using solvents and high heat could possibly be naturally beneficial to humans?
I haven't found one manufacturer that says their rice bran oil is cold-pressed, and you'll see on Alpha One rice bran oil that it is cold-filtered- deceptive marketing to me- which means that it has been cooled before being filtered.
Here are some links below which i hope you find useful.
http://www.thaiedibleoil.com/english/product_process_01.php
http://www.thaiedibleoil.com/english/product_process_02.php
http://books.google.co.nz/books?id=H87qEHkcXhMC&pg=PA309&lpg=PA309&dq=how+is+rice+bran+oil+extracted%3F&source=bl&ots=8ko6jZ9jJ7&sig=maecBFdDcrhzMbsmBGFM4nj5voE&hl=en&ei=pJaySvTTD4nitgPE09HRDA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6#v=onepage&q=how%20is%20rice%20bran%20oil%20extracted%3F&f=false


Thanks for your time
 
Lana Raill
Senior Student, Diploma of Herbal Medicine
Promoting Wellness through Nutrition, Herbal Medicine and Lifestyle management
Prema Clinic
69 Wellpark Ave
Grey Lynn
09 360 3226/ 02102468952

Hello from the USA,

I found your website after an exhaustive search of the internet about Rice Bran Oil. I have read your article and email letters from the senior student on the Rice Bran OIl arguement, but I have to tell you....

Here in the U.S. Dr Oz, a huge TV personality, just endorsed Rice Bran Oil. The deal is this: it appears if the oil is cold-pressed (and I personally like non-winterized versions) the gamma-oryzanol and policosanol lower cholesterol levels by raising HDL and lowering LDL. The gamma-oryzanol is preserved in higher percentage levels in the cold-pressed process hence its preference, and avoiding winterization allows naturally occurring levels of policosanol to be preserved. Dr Oz did this after a number of new human studies showed these results, and they trump the omega-6 fear that you presented here.

I have to agree with you that fat moderation is a key to good health – please understand this is not an argument, but simply an update of newer information. 

Thanks for your time!!!!

Have a great day!!!!

Jennifer Wysocki

PA, USA


PS
You may want to add the Dr Oz snib-bit from his show as reference material since HE is the master of medicine NOT me.

The show piece was titled: Miracle fat to get skinny

http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/miracle-fat-get-skinny-rice-bran-oil

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